Malasia - Suspected union-busting tactics at Malaysian Airlines

In June 2015 Malaysian Airlines Systems Berhad (MAS Bhd) transferred their assets and airline business to a newly created separate legal entity, Malaysian Airlines Berhad(MAB). The 20,000 MAS Bhd employees lost their jobs, and only 14,000 were taken on by MAB, the new company that took over the Malaysian Airlines, leaving 6,000 out of work. At the same time, the in-house trade unions that existed in MAS Bhd effectively ceased to exist, leaving MAB free of trade unions. Both the former MAS and the new MAB are government owned.

The National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (NUFAM) duly applied to the new employer MAB for recognition in a letter dated 11 September 2015. However, MAB did not respond to that application within the 21 days stipulated by law, to either grant recognition or notify it of the grounds for refusing recognition.

NUFAM then reported the matter in writing to the Director General for Industrial Relations on 6 October 2015, again as required by law, in order that the authorities take such steps or make such enquiries to ascertain the “… the competence of the trade union of workmen concerned to represent any workmen or class of workmen….” in MAB. Over 40 days later, the DG for Industrial Relations had not responded to NUFAM.

NUFAM feared that the government-owned airline was mimicking the union-busting behaviour of private-sector companies. Companies have been known to in the past form a new separate legal entity, and then transfer assets and business from the existing company to the new entity, thereby killing off existing unions – forcing workers to start all over again to form, register and get recognition of their unions in the new entity. This strategy has also been used to get rid of workers’ leaders and union activists who stood up against exploitation.

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